In the traditional (Weberian and Wilsonian) understanding of the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians, there is a clear hierarchy and division of labor between them: the politician functions as a sovereign representative of political values and interests, while the bureaucrat is the subordinate expert adviser and policy implementer, whose major concern is efficiency. In this conception, leadership is exercised, by definition, by politicians, with bureaucrats specializing in creating order and proposing workable alternatives in the face of complex social problems (‘t Hart 2014, 27; ‘t Hart and Uhr 2008). Most of the contemporary authors, such as Peters (1988), Aberbach, Putnam and Rockman (1981), Svara (1999), Heady (2001), Mouritzen and Svara (2002) disagree with the notion of a strict division between administration and politics as advocated by Weber and Wilson, therefore they have presented and advocated models that describe the relations between administration and politics in differing manners. The conflict between senior civil servants and politicians is in administrative or/and political science commonly stated as one of the basic problems of contemporary political authority and public leadership. If we want to fully understand the processes of leadership and their effects, it is urgent to proceed with in-depth research of the relations between both key groups that influence the processes of governance the most.
The post-doc project is originating from political science, but also includes some interdisciplinary elements, combining the study of two phenomena: public leadership and the politico-administrative dichotomy at the government level closest to the citizens. No comprehensive study has been undertaken in Slovenia since the introduction of the current system of local government in 1994, to address the relationship between politics and administration in relation to public leadership. Therefore, the results of our project will enable the development of typologies of political and administrative leadership. The crucial research question is ‘who is in charge in the municipal hall?’ An exploration of leadership in the municipalities must be concerned not only with the individual contributions of mayors or DMAs, but with how they relate to each other and how the work of local government is divided between them. The aim of the research is to link together the fragmented knowledge that has been developed about politico-administrative relations at the local level. At the same time, we are exploring the infamous overlap between the political role and the administrative role of Slovenian mayors, proving the existence of the so-called pure hybrid that was so far only theoretically implied (but never clearly demonstrated), representing the total overlap of political and administrative roles in the performance of public functions.
The post-doc research project includes an analysis of primary data; the main research method is fieldwork, using a structured multi-modular questionnaire among the mayors and DMAs of Slovenian municipalities. Observation is therefore directed towards the political leaders and top administrators in the Slovenian local government. In addition to the standard quantitative method, we are also using qualitative data obtained through a series of in-depth interviews. We are conducting structured interviews with selected mayors to detect presence of the pure hybrid situation, i.e. the fourth image configuration of Aberbach, Putnam and Rockman. Since this proposed postdoctoral research project is among very few attempts to search for the actual existence of a heretofore purely theoretical image, involving a complete overlap of political and administrative roles in the performance of public functions at the local level, we are using interviews to identify the consequences of such a setting in for municipal leadership.